Birth Rites Collection

cocks comb small 6

Cocks Comb Artist Book

Helen Knowles, 2008, Artist Book, 30 x 30 cm

In this book Helen Knowles manipulated the images made by young mothers from Salford Women’s Centre during a workshop series exploring their experiences of childbirth. In one session, Knowles concentrated on the language the girls used for their bodies. Two mothers were asked to lie on a large sheet of paper, while another drew around them. The girls were asked to write in one of the outlines the words they used to describe the different parts of the body. They were then asked to fill in the other outline with the medical terms they knew. It became apparent that they didn't know the terminology doctors and midwives commonly use when discussing childbirth with pregnant women, indicating a serious failure in communication with the young woman and their health attendants. To complete the diagram they leafed through a pile of childbirth guides transcribing any anatomical terms they came across. Knowles contrasted the mothers colloquial descriptions of their bodies with text from a book by Jane Sharp, a 17th century midwife, who described the reproductive body, conception, sex and childbirth with explicit, poetic and sexually open language.

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